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You have an opinion, but do you have what it takes to be heard?

Ryan McElveen
Suffern, NY

Ryan McElveen

I’m a graduate student in International Affairs at Columbia and have spent most of my life roaming the Northeast corridors of both the U.S. and China.

Rebels without a cause

Editor's note: The contestants were given free rein for their second post of the day. You can read Ryan McElveen's earlier post here.


From the amount of time President Obama has spent at MTV town halls, interviewing with Rolling Stone and planning for an appearance on The Jon Stewart Show next week, you might think he's going through a mid-life crisis.


But since the 2008 presidential election, the Democrats have found young voters between the ages of 18 to 29 to be an increasingly tough electoral nut to crack. Conversely, Republicans, in the form of Tea Party members, have had a stock of middle-aged voters flocking to their cause. Why such a profound difference in mobilizing these groups?


The answer lies in the proliferation of causes among youth and the lack thereof among the Tea Partiers.


As someone who's tried (and often failed) to mobilize young voters, and as a young voter myself, I can affirm that young voters do not lack an interest in politics. They are perhaps more politically active than any generation since the Vietnam era. Yet the primary difference from the 1960s is that, instead of building coalitions around a single cause (be it anti-war, pro-civil rights, or both intertwined), each young voter today tends to have a cause of his or her own.


Building on the vast increase of NGOs over the past two decades, the internet has facilitated networks of specialized and internationalized causes, from environmental sustainability in Brazil to human rights promotion in Iran, that span the globe but lack a local critical mass. As a result of this cause proliferation, young voters must spend much more time and effort promoting their own cause to the detriment of mass youth political sentiment.


In 2008, Obama succeeded by pulling a Vietnam -- youth found in him the embodiment of many of their causes. In 2010, Republicans have done the opposite. They have appealed to provincialism, stood for self-interest (in the form of lower taxes, weaker central government and greater personal freedom) and recruited rebels without a greater cause.


Next month, the turnout of young voters will no doubt fail to reach the standard set in 2008, but this will be no reason to dismiss them as apathetic. After all, charges of apathy would undermine the electoral muscles they flexed only two years ago. A better explanation is that, for better or worse, Tea Partiers have empty cups and young voters have full plates.


Read more posts from this round. See what the judges are saying. And cast your vote on Friday.

By Ryan McElveen  |  October 21, 2010; 2:15 PM ET  | Category:  Blogging Challenge , Round One
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Wonderful, insightful. You have riled the TPs which is easy to do, but you did it in a rather gracious way, as opposed to their comments here.

What I wonder with these outraged folks is, if they are so concerned about deficits, "loans" from the Chinese and the decreasing value of the dollar (see comments of UPONFURTHERREVIEW)why aren't they outraged at the party who set these things in motion? Their repeal of the Banking Act of 1933 in 1999 was led by 3 Republicans. It's the Republican yen for deregulation that caused this mess. Tea Party outrage is sorely misplaced. Great writing, Ryan.

Posted by: jackbarstoke | October 23, 2010 3:06 PM
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In this shallow, arrogant post, Ryan comes off as a typical kid who hasn't yet outgrown his "my parents don't know anything" attitude.

Claiming that Tea Party members are motivated by provincialism and self-interest is a provincial attitude in itself.

Given America's trillion-dollar deficits, loans from the Chinese and the decreasing value of the dollar, how on earth can Ryan claim that a stand for less government spending is selfish? On the contrary, one could argue that middle-age and older Americans are less selfish to worry about the country that their children and grandchildren will inherit than to savor the fleeting fruits of government overspending.

I suggest that Ryan come back when he's 10 years older and see how much smarter his parents have suddenly become.

Posted by: UponFurtherReview | October 22, 2010 12:27 PM
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Well said. Insightful views of youth voters and the Tea Party that I never have heard before. Well done young man, impressive.

The Tea Partiers are the last and final gasp of the 50s generation, finally invited to the party they missed in the 60s and beyond. Fifty years of never being asked to the dance fuels their anger. But they have no cause, they have no solutions, they want everything for themselves and nothing for the others.

Posted by: chucky-el | October 21, 2010 10:08 PM
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Seems like this post was mostly an excuse to get to the cutesy one-liner about tea-cups & plates.

I am not sure it follows that youth adopting a wide array of different causes explains why so many won't vote. Their plates are full therefore they can't be bothered to eat?

Maybe the attraction to 'Rock-Star' celebrity & music-video length attention-spans has more to do with it than the dinnerware cited?

Posted by: bjerryberg | October 21, 2010 4:36 PM
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